Even though Pittsburghers woke up to a 20-degree morning on Friday, the Pitt baseball team is ready to start its season.
Panthers sophomore Billy Corcoran will toss the first pitch of the 2020 season at noon on Friday as the Panthers face Indiana State as part of a four-game tournament in Port Charlotte, Florida.
Pitt will then face St. Joseph’s at 4:30 p.m. in the second game of a Friday doubleheader, followed by Ohio State at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and Iowa at 11 a.m. on Sunday. All four games will broadcast on Flo Baseball.
It’s been an offseason of change for the Panthers in advance of head coach Mike Bell’s second season. They’ve brought in 21 new players, but the core of the Pitt team should be familiar to Panthers fans.
Corcoran, a Milmont Park, Pa. native, will anchor the rotation and look to build off a promising freshman season, when he made 11 starts and finished with a 3.80 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings.
But Pitt will have to replace Dan Hammer (Baltimore Orioles) and Derek West (Houston Astros), who both started games in 2019. To do that, Bell turned to the junior college ranks, adding Mitch Meyers from Florida Southwestern State and Matt Gilbertson from College of Southern Nevada.
Meyers will start on Saturday against Ohio State, Gilbertson will start on Sunday against Iowa. Junior lefty Chris Cappas will start the second game of Friday’s doubleheader. The two-way pitcher/outfielder had 33 strikeouts in 32 innings, but a 5.06 ERA.
In the bullpen, closer Chase Smith will return for his junior year. Senior Chris Gomez and sophomore lefty Mason Ronan (Ashville, Pa.) will also be back, as well.
Around the diamond, the Panthers will look similar, with redshirt senior David Yanni (Pipersville, Pa.) once again anchoring the infield at shortstop. Sophomore Sky Duff will man second, while junior college transfers Bryce Hulett will man first and Samuel Frontino will play third.
Across the outfield, top returning hitter Nico Popa will return in right looking to build off his .353 batting average from 2019. The senior from Seton La Salle also led all Pitt regulars from a year ago with a 1.005 OPS. Sophomore Kyle Hess will man left and junior college speedster Jordan Anderson will play center after transferring from Mississippi State via Chipola College. Anderson will fill the spot in the outfield vacated by Connor Perry (Detroit Tigers).
Top power bat Ron Washington Jr. is back to full health after an injury ended his 2019 season after 39 games. A junior, Washington is likely Pitt’s top draft eligible player and will look to build on his team-high 17 doubles. He’s expected to be Pitt’s designated hitter.
At catcher, Pitt will replace two-year starter Cole MacLaren (Detroit Tigers) with a platoon of junior college transfer Riley Wash and freshman Nick Vera from St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Pitt was picked to finish last in the ACC’s Coastal Division after finishing 21-34 and 8-22 in ACC play in Bell’s first season in 2019. They’ll face a tough non-conference test before they get to league play. Indiana State and Ohio State both made the 2019 NCAA Tournament.